Every year for 20 years, my wife and I have enjoyed the civic fireworks from our driveway; fireworks to enjoy, be proud of and be satisfied, but no — after the show, the valley lights up with screeching, smoky, clearly illegal high-flyers! That’s when I’m on guard.
We’ve all said it — and we know what the 4th is all about, right? It celebrates the founding of a country with liberty and justice for all. And all over America, millions of fireworks ring out in proclamation.
For many, fireworks replicate “the rocket’s red glare” that freed us from the tyranny of a king, guaranteeing the basic human rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit happiness.”
For some, it’s a terrible reminder of the battles fought, the wounds inflicted and the lives lost. Many generations have given heavily to defend for ours the privilege we share. My dad was one who served, a submariner. My mom, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with warfare, bombs and rockets. In fact, the fireworks scare her kitty, and she thinks they don’t really signify those high ideals or patriotic fervor.
They both lived through the Great Depression, Prohibition, and a world war in the freest, most prosperous nation of the last century, and the bizarre times since Sept. 11, 2001. Until that fateful day, there were no limits to our freedom … as long as you didn’t hurt anyone.
But fireworks do hurt people. Every year, someone’s dog freaks out and escapes from the yard, a field catches fire, someone is at risk for losing an eye and someone sits in terror until the racket dies down, long after midnight.
Not to mention the voiceless among us: animals and birds. Imagine what they think fleeing the fiery assault from every direction. Smoke hangs heavily in the valley for hours. Does it contain the memories of a neighbor’s home?
What I especially don’t understand is, why do people choose to celebrate the birth of our nation by shooting off fireworks that are illegal (in Grand County)? The irony of celebrating our country by breaking the law contrasts with the ideal the day represents.
It seems bizarre that while the big fire was burning, Moab City Council reluctantly approved a fireworks stand. It’s like giving away cigarettes to kids and telling them not to smoke. I think the city should share liability for fireworks-caused fires, and the stand’s operator, too.
The Moab Valley Volunteer Fire Department, masters of their craft, stand prepared to attack the enemy wherever it flares its nostrils. But I think it’s wrong to waste men and equipment prepared for inevitable fires caused by negligent, illegal behavior. It’s wrong to subjugate your neighbors’ property, peace and welfare, and wrong to claim national allegiance, when really you just want to blow stuff up.
I get it: the fascination with fire, brilliant fun of a sparkler — almost a rite of passage for a child — and the intense rush of igniting rocket fuel with the fierce, white-hot spewing of a giant cone fountain. I get all that.
This year, the blazing sun, hotter earlier than ever in my memory, combines with fireworks to explode in uncontrolled destruction. Fire is my biggest concern. We’ve all seen the devastation wrought recently upon so many, a stark reminder of what it would be like to lose everything but your life.
Sure, I stand to lose “things” like photos, irreplaceable documents, or a home, but most important of all to me is … my trees. I fear losing my trees to an accidental fire more than anything else. My place would be nearly worthless if my trees burned. They are a source of my happiness. That’s why the 4th of July is the worst day of the year for me.
Last year on July 5, we walked our dog around the neighborhood and picked up an unexploded pack of firecrackers; I still have them. Recently, while clearing brush near my trees, I found a windblown wrapper of the same brand! Evidence.
What happens when one’s pursuit of happiness restricts another’s? We all know right from wrong. We agree on common limits, defined by law, so that none shall diminish that of another. Basically, we agree not to hurt each other. The laws regarding fireworks are clear. They’re not legal outside Moab City limits. If you’re not sure, get a map. For extreme antisocial behavior — like arson — we have laws, fines and jail.
But we are a nation of people who care for our neighbors; we pull together in emergency, share in need and watch out for each other as we would for our own. So, happy 4th of July! I hope your happiness isn’t at someone else’s expense because that ain’t American.
Marc Horwitz is a Moab resident.
“This year, the blazing sun, hotter earlier than ever in my memory, combines with fireworks to explode in uncontrolled destruction. Fire is my biggest concern. We’ve all seen the devastation wrought recently upon so many, a stark reminder of what it would be like to lose everything but your life.”